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Sam Wilson, Where Did You Go?

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It starts with a recording. There is some static, but the voice is resolute, sad, and frustrated.

SAM WILSON:

So don't be discouraged. stand up, don't be defeated. Do what's right. Don't be scared, be brave. I need you to be that. This country and this world need you to be that. now more than ever.

 

This has been the greatest experience of my life--and I pray I was, in some small way, at least able to inspire whoever comes next.

 

The recording ends; there's a little bit of static, and then a deep breath.

RIKKI

That's...

MARGOT

It's hard to hear.

 

A pause.

RIKKI

For those of you just joining us, that was the voice of Sam Wilson, giving us his digital resignation as Captain America. He has been an active user of social media, and early this morning he posted a recording that said he was...resigning as an act of protest, and giving the shield back to Steve Rogers, the original Captain America.

MARGOT

All this in the wake of unrelenting protests, trending hashtags such as "give back the shield" and phrases like "not my cap" yelled whenever he made a scheduled public appearance. Many protested his superheroism, showing up with signs and banners all over NYC.

RIKKI

Saying he's had a rough time of it is an understatement.

MARGOT

Even worse is that Steve Rogers gave him the shield in the first place! All of these reactions are stemming from a place of...hatred and ignorance.

RIKKI

I'm not sure about that, MARGOT. I mean, hatred seems strong...

MARGOT

No, RIKKI, come on.

 

(She takes a deep breath)

 

He's a black superhero in a position of extreme responsibility and power. He's representing a country that has built itself on the backs of Black people. And now he's above all these white folks who have only barely tolerated black people in their society to begin with. He's supposed to be the pinnacle of American patriotism and he's not some blond, blue eyed, All-American boy next door. He's a brother from Harlem, and he's hated for it.

RIKKI

You feel like he gave in to that hatred ?

MARGOT

I feel like he gave up. I feel like he...he's treating this like...as if it's a cabinet position, or a government job, right? When it's not! He became an icon, and when some people didn't treat him right, when he saw that his changes weren't happening fast enough, he just left.

 

It just...It hurts. It was so important, it was so much bigger than just a black man being Captain America. He was resistance personified; he was hope.

RIKKI

I think that you're giving superheroes too much power. Already they're acting without a lot of jurisdiction, and there's not a lot of checks and balances...really the only people around that are even capable of reigning in someone like Reed Richards or Natasha Romanoff are other superheroes.

 

It's not sustainable. Maybe responding to the public with consideration is a good example. Maybe this is the right thing to do. I'm not saying that the public is right! I'm just saying that maybe more superheroes should take the general public into account.

MARGOT

Maybe you have a point, but in this case the loudest public is rooted in bigotry. We should not...we cannot give in to bigotry.

RIKKI

If you were Sam Wilson, and you had all this thrown at you...the shield, the title, the responsibility, the backlash...what would you have done in the wake of all these protests?

MARGOT

I would have kept the damn shield.

RIKKI

MARGOT, he's only human! He's got a high-tech jet-pack and a whole lot of training, but he's not a mutant, or enhanced, or half-Kree, or Inhuman...He's just a man.

MARGOT

That makes him more important! That makes all of it so much more important. You can hear it at the end of his speech. Keep fighting, keep breathing, keep resisting. But how can he say all that and then resign?

RIKKI

I think it's an act of resistance in itself. He gave up the shield on his own terms--

MARGOT

Nobody is going to see it like that. He still gave it up. He still looked all his detractors in the face and said 'you win'.

RIKKI

He explicitly said he didn't! Sam Wilson, in his own words, said he was giving back the shield because he no longer believed for what this country stood for--

MARGOT

It would have been a stronger act of resistance to keep the shield despite reservations, and in spite of the protests! To say to the people, I see you and I will fight you. I know you and I will fight for you.

That's what I wanted from Sam Wilson. Not an act of resignation, but a renewal of faith and a testament to civil disobedience. As Captain America, that would have been the braver thing.

RIKKI

Do we need a Captain America at all?

MARGOT

I think we need Sam Wilson more than we need Captain America. But if we're going to have Captain America, it ought to be Sam Wilson.

RIKKI

And the public opinion?

MARGOT

The angriest opinions make the most noise. Can you honestly tell me that Wilson did more harm than good?

RIKKI

No, definitely not. The public hotline he set up was an incredible move. His strong stance on profiling was really necessary. And he's proven over and over that his moral and ethical code is stronger than a lot of superheroes out there.

 

Look, I guess what I'm saying is that...I don't think that Sam Wilson owes society anything. I don't think we--as a society--owe him anything either. I mean, I respect him, but not because he just intrinsically should have that because he's a superhero. I respect him because he deserves it.

MARGOT

I'm not putting every superhero on a pedestal.

RIKKI

But you're putting Sam Wilson on a pedestal! You're saying that because of who he is, he owes it to you to be Captain America. Because he's better than other superheroes, and he should be in that position. All of these opinions based on your subjective reaction to Sam Wilson.

MARGOT

He's important, RIKKI! Look at the times we're living in, look at the violent capitalism, the fascist political movements, the disregard for the disenfranchised fractions of society. Sam Wilson owes us because he stands in direct opposition to all of that. He looks all of that in the face and, as Captain America, who has been seen and used as a champion of those awful causes, he stands in direct, unflinching, absolute resistance to it.

 

And now, he's given these people what they want. He's told them, 'you win.' And that's not okay with me.

RIKKI

I respect that--I just disagree. I don't think that superheroes should be given that kind of social power or importance.

MARGOT

That's deliberately ignoring the way that the public responds to superheroes in general. Society has already made them out to be icons. And if we're going to discuss Sam Wilson's resignation, we have to accept and speak about that.

RIKKI

Alright, so we're getting some response from the phone and text lines; let's see what the public has to say.

 

Hi JONATHAN! Do you have something to add?

JONATHAN

Yes, hi. I actually have a question for MARGOT.

MARGOT

What's going on?

JONATHAN

I want to know if you see Sam Wilson representing our whole society, or just Black people?

MARGOT

I think he's a black man who has been asked to represent our nation, and who has found himself made into a singular representation of all African-American people and other racial minorities.

JONATHAN

You see him as a black man first, and a superhero second?

MARGOT

Yes. And, honestly? He's said as much. His stance during the Civil War made that apparent, as did his response to the Americops and police brutality around the country. His reactions were always from the perspective of a black man.

 

Now, I wouldn't define him by his blackness, but it is something that does define him. My blackness is a part of my identity, and I am so tied to it that I cannot separate it from who I am. In our society people are often defined by skin color first, actions second.

JONATHAN

So when you say he 'owes' society, do you mean he owes Black people?

MARGOT

Look, I would say that he represents us, whether he likes it or not. And with that representation comes responsibility. We deserve to have representation.

JONATHAN

So it's his responsibility to be that?

RIKKI

See, this is my point. He's still just a man.

MARGOT

Honestly, if he wasn't prepared to be this kind of superhero, he shouldn't have agreed to be Captain America. So yes, I would argue that he has a responsibility as a role model and a superhero.

RIKKI

Thank you JONATHAN. Next we have Shae, from Queens.

SHAE

Hi! So I have this thing. I agree with MARGOT, that Sam Wilson is the kind of superhero we need to represent us, but I'm going to say that he did the right thing by walking away from the Captain America name.

MARGOT

Why's that?

SHAE

Like, so often minorities have been asked to be the people who make change and educate others. It's like we're put in the position of educating white folks about how shitty they are, and then we're responsible for their actions afterwards. Like if they reacted negatively, it's our fault, or if they react in a less shitty way, they act like they got their on their own, and our work was just incidental.

MARGOT

Right.

SHAE

So maybe Sam Wilson giving up the shield is something that's the ultimate sign of resistance? Like he's saying 'I won't be this for you'.

MARGOT

I would argue that he wasn't Captain America for the sake of educating white people, he was Captain America because he was the best man for the job.

SHAE

Okay, but he still had to defend himself like, as if he wasn't Captain America.

MARGOT

But he was. And his resistance and his existence in that role gave him so much power.

RIKKI

Shae, do you think that Sam could have done something different?

SHAE

You know, maybe he shouldn't have taken the shield at all. Like, maybe it was time for like, the whole Captain America thing to die when Steve Rogers gave it up.

MARGOT

Maybe, but he didn't.

SHAE

Yeah, I guess we'll never know what could have happened, huh?

MARGOT

Gotta live in the moment. Thanks for calling in Shae!

 

Our next caller is ASUN.

ASUN

So, I just want to say that I don't think Sam Wilson did the right thing when he gave up the shield. He came into my neighborhood and protected us. The Americops had my daughter, and he saved her from going to jail.

 

We felt safer with him there. With a Captain America that we felt would protect us no matter where we came from, or the color of our skin. A man who did not look like the men who wanted to hurt me and my family.

When there were riots he tried to help, he didn't side with the Americops, he didn't try to tell us we were wrong. My block was on fire for two days. The police men were going to kill us, we saw it...We knew...I knew Elvin, my daughter knew him. He was a child...

(She sighs.)

 

I just...I don't know what kind of justice I'll see in my neighborhood.

RIKKI

I really respect that feeling, ASUN, but for me, Sam Wilson, and honestly, no superhero, should be relied on to administer justice in America.

MARGOT

Well the Justice System in America can't be relied on either!

RIKKI

I know that. It's flawed and in some instances, downright evil. But giving individuals responsibility to police the streets themselves is dangerous too!

ASUN

(Getting angrier, more upset)

I was never afraid of Sam Wilson. I am afraid of the Americops that are invading my neighborhood.

RIKKI

I'm against the Americops too! The privatization of the police force is absolutely deplorable and should be stopped.

MARGOT

You're telling people that there's no hope! RIKKI, you are telling people that what they have is bad, but the alternative is also bad, even when they say the alternative is better.

RIKKI

(Resigned)

I don't know what the solution is here. I liked Sam Wilson. I supported him. I thought he did a great job. But it's obvious that our reliance on superheroes has led us down a dangerous path. The elected authorities are responding with increasing violence and strength, and the public is unable to change things ourselves, and our entire culture is lading expansive, deep-seated problems on the shoulders of superpowered individuals.

ASUN

All I know my neighborhood will not be heard without Sam Wilson's Captain America. My family, my friends...we will be hurt. And if he still had the shield, Sam Wilson might be able to stop it.

A beat, both RIKKI and MARGOT are reacting to this. RIKKI is having a hard time adjusting to this reality, and MARGOT is made all the more steadfast for it.

RIKKI

Thank you, ASUN. Stay safe.

A click, and then a pause.

MARGOT

I feel so disappointed.

RIKKI

Why's that?

MARGOT

It's just sad, you know? When Sam Wilson was Captain America he gave us hope. We never really thought that Steve Rogers would drop into Red Hook to fight the Americops, but Sam Wilson would. He'd respond to everyday injustice. He'd take the time for that.

RIKKI

I think that's a symptom of bigger issues.

MARGOT

He made himself out to be reliable, and then...he's just left us.

RIKKI

We don't know that he won't come back as the Falcon or under another alias.

MARGOT

It's not the same. He let people down.

RIKKI

He knew he would...How about another caller. MOSES, from Harlem, you're on the air.

MOSES

(upset, verging on angry)

RIKKI, you got a lot of idealistic opinions, but you are ignoring our reality. You are just..superheroes are not going away! Sam Wilson leaving is a bad sign, it's a bad way to leave us! He's saying that...he's saying that he doesn't want to be a part of us anymore.

RIKKI

I disagree; I think he's just saying he's tired. He's fought against a lot of people and a lot of opinions for a long time.

MOSES

That doesn't change the fact that when I looked up and saw him up there, I was proud to be an American. I was proud to be an African-American man. It felt good.

RIKKI

He made me proud to be an American too.

MOSES

He should have kept fighting though. For people like me.

RIKKI

I don't think Sam Wilson owes you that. He's his own man, and he wasn't elected or anything. He didn't even ask to be Captain America. He just accepted the role.

MOSES

Why don't I get to see myself up there anymore? What makes that so wrong?

RIKKI

I'm sorry, MOSES--I'm not the one to ask.

MARGOT

Both of us are sad to see him go, MOSES. I know RIKKI supported Sam. She's not saying that we don't deserve representation.

MOSES

I'm angry man, I'm pissed off. This shouldn't have happened.

MARGOT

Thanks for calling in MOSES.

RIKKI

Honestly, this whole thing is a mess.

MARGOT

It's layered. It's nuanced. I don't think we're used to seeing our superheroes as human. Wilson made himself very accessible to us. We felt like he was our friend. That's why I feel so personally hurt by this. It feels like a betrayal.

RIKKI

Yeah, now that you mention it, it's not really the norm for high profile superheroes to have such a one-on-one PR program.

MARGOT

Right. He had political opinions. He had history and a personal life. He was in our neighborhood, not in another dimension, or in space. He was here, with us, fighting our fights. He wasn't a super genius or mega rich or super-human. He was a man trying to do the right thing.

RIKKI

I mean, I agree with MOSES. New York City isn't the same without Sam Wilson.

MARGOT

Rik, I think we can both agree, New York City is certainly not better without him.

RIKKI

No. It's definitely not.

MARGOT

(tiredly)

So that's today's big superhero news, everyone. Sam Wilson has resigned from his position as Captain America, broadcasting his decision in an...extremely divisive political and personal statement.

RIKKI

If you've got a question for me or MARGOT, or just an opinion on what Sam Wilson did, should have done, or will do in the future, please get in touch.

MARGOT

This is MARGOT and RIKKI with The Breakout Hour, and we'll be back after these messages.


 

Music Rises


This show was written by Linda Codega for the Sam Wilson Birthday Bang.

Full transcripts can be found on Archive of our Own. Sam Wilson, and Steve Rogers are property of Marvel INC, used here for the purpose of parody and transformation.

Our Cast is Linda Codega as Rikki Barnes, August Brown as Margot Dalton, Gabriel Casillas as Jonathan, K. Ancrum as Shae, L.W. Salinas as Asun, and Micah Payne as Moses.

Special Thanks to Eric Williams as Sam Wilson.

Full music and production credits can be found on the Archive.